Hospital Accreditation Standards on Epidemic of Falls in Hospitals

The Hospital Accreditation Standards (HAS) organization reports that according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality each year 700,000 to 1 million falls occur in hospitals by patients, and the HAS organization has published very thoughtful introspective guides on how to improve the hospital environment for patients and visitors to significantly reduce the number of falls. Yet it appears that the vast majority of hospitals are not proactively putting safety practices or fall prevention guides and programs into action so as to protect both patients and visitors. (Hospital Accreditation | Joint Commission)(Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality)  The hospital associations offer no explanation for why up to 1 million patients a year are falling other than the failure to be proactive in putting fall safety guidelines in place?

Hospitals Need Fall Safety Programs

There are simple fall safety programs not devised by attorneys but actually recommended by hospital associations that should be followed.  To not have a proactive fall safety program is to ignore well-recognized steps published by hospital associations on how to save our community members from injury and to effectively reduce costs of hospital operations due to such injuries.

The theme of most hospital fall prevention plans is to have the chief administrator of the hospital leading the charge on fall safety, a designated fall safety person always engaged proactively in identifying dangers and investigating all falls in the hospital to see what could have been done to prevent the fall, and to have the hospital staff believe if they identify a danger that the hospital will not just nod its head in agreement, but will lead the charge to address the danger identified by the staff.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), ECRI Institute, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ISCI), the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety, all offer resources to hospitals to evaluate and reduce fall risks. The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation Standards (HAS), provides that a safe, functional and supportive environment by the staff within the hospital is necessary to  preserved safety for patients, visitors and staff.

Our Experience With Hospital Falls

I represent a person who fell at a hospital, and I have learned so much about a hidden secret, the likelihood of being injured in a hospital due to a fall as either a patient or a visitor. Hospitals are not very introspective from my current experience with this case. The answer to our client’s fall is the hospital wanting to project blame onto the client. There are obviously times when people fall without anyone being at fault, the victim or the hospital, but it is not an answer to the epidemic of falls in hospitals in America to blame the victim without examining whether a proactive fall safety program could have prevented the injury.

The Hospital Accreditation Standards (HAS) published by the Joint Commission are accepted standards in Washington State in establishing accreditation for hospitals.  The Sentinel Event Alert (SE) publications by the Joint Commission, available to all hospitals, alerts the hospitals to sentinel or serious red light events requiring immediate action.  On September 28, 2015, there was a Sentinel Event Alert that reported to hospitals that serious falls by patients are among the top 10 sentinel being reported by hospitals, yet the numbers of falls and injuries continues without reduction in most hospitals. (Sentinel Event Alert 55: Preventing falls and fall-related injuries in health care facilities | Joint Commission)

Hospitals need to recognize what HAS describes as the “Environment of Care”, and this “Environment of Care” is made up of three basic elements:

  1. The building or space, including how it is arranged and special features that protect patients, visitors and staff.
  2. Equipment used to support safety within the building or hospital.
  3. That all people who work within the hospital, patients, and anyone else who enters the environment have a role in minimizing risks. Under the heading of “Environment of Care,” the HAS describes what steps should be taken to educate hospital staff about the three (3) elements of a safe environment to reduce falls and other types of injuries:  (a) identifying, (b) reporting, and (c) taking action on environmental risks in the hospital building in general.

The various health care associations recognize that we have an epidemic of falls in hospital, which must be reduced.  Falls are taking lives of some patients and creating misery for other patients, visitors and their families. Failing to have a proactive fall prevention plan encouraged by hospitals of its staff is creating an unnecessary cost to the hospital due to in hospital injuries, and, of course, those unnecessary costs are then passed onto the consumer in the form of increased operating costs for the hospital which we find ourselves or our family members as patients in hospitals paying for such in the form of increased costs of services.

Our personal injury law firm has empowered Washington residents to recover damages when they’ve suffered an injury because of another’s negligence. If you or someone you love has been injured in a hospital fall, please reach out to our team to get the help you need.